Let's get straight to the point. First, I believe one of the major obstacles that slowed things down for my husband and I was the long and stressful wait for public housing - an issue that I've blogged about here.
The second major obstacle was health. If you do a search on the Internet about women's TTC experiences, you'll find many women's blogs, including blogs by Singaporean women, about the difficulties they face. Perhaps there are more negative stories online than positive ones because the women who face issues with TTC are the ones who tend to blog to vent their feelings. Apart from reading blogs, I have also heard stories about friends or the friends of friends who've had unsuccessful and, often, very expensive treatment to have a child of their own. So, for what it's worth, here's what we did to overcome our issues with TTC. I hope it will give other couples out there some information that can be of help to them.
Most obstetricians in Singapore, as in other parts of the developed world, will recommend further tests after more than a year of unsuccessful tries via the "natural method". This is because any healthy couple should be able to reproduce within a year if they have been doing "it" at the right time, i.e. during the week when the woman is the most fertile.
So, after more than one year of TTC, my friendly obstetrician recommended that my husband and I go for fertility tests. It was then we discovered that the benign growths in my womb, which were previously thought to be harmless, could in fact be obstructing the path of the fertilised egg as it tries to attach itself to my womb. Although the friendly obstetrician said that he could resolve the issue easily with a surgery, based on a family member's recommendation, we decided to go with a different doctor for the operation. This was purely a personal choice, as we have known the second doctor for a longer time. My friendly obstetrician was happy with the decision too.
The surgery that I went for is similar to the laparoscopic surgery written about on the blog A Juggling Mom, except that she did the abdominal version of it while mine was a keyhole surgery - the reason for the different techniques used being the size and number of the growths. The entire surgery from preparation to eventual completion took only about a month. After doing an ultra-sound scan for me through which the doctor established the positions of the growths, the date for the surgery and the private hospital in which it was to be carried out were quickly set. The nurse in charge handed me some bowel preparation solution. This was for me to clear my bowels the morning of the surgery. The clearing of bowels was to prevent infection after the op. Infections are the scourge of post-op care. As my best friend in the medical profession once said, "It's rare for people to die at the operating table. If they don't survive, it's usually because of post-op infections."
Needless to say, in the first few weeks after the surgery date was set, I was kind of freaked out. This was my first operation, ever. But I have close family members who had gone for major surgeries and survived, so I kept reminding myself that if they could get through major surgeries, this surgery which was only of moderate risk should not be a problem. My family and friends were very supportive, so eventually, the whole emotional aspect of it was taken care of. What really helped was also knowing that the outcome of this type of surgery was very positive for pregnancy.
On the day of the surgery, my husband and I arrived at the hospital, and after all the admin stuff (registering, paying the deposit), we were brought into the ward. I had wanted to cut costs by staying in a cheaper ward, but all the more affordable wards were full, so I ended up in an A-class ward at a private hospital. Thankfully, the surgery did not require a long hospital stay or we'd surely be ****ed by the bill. My insurance plan would only cover a limited portion of the costs of the op, as it was for a condition that had existed before I upgraded my plan.
After changing into the hospital robes, I just kind of sat around and chatted with my husband. The hospital staff came to check on me a couple of times and take my vital signs (blood pressure, etc). Soon, I was transferred onto another bed and wheeled into the operating area. My husband followed my bed as it was being wheeled to the operating theatre. After I entered the OT area, he returned to wait at the A-class ward where there was a TV and a comfortable armchair. In the meantime, I lay on a bed next to a pillar in front of an operating theatre, waiting for the doctor to arrive. Thankfully, the area was not eeriely silent but rather vibrant. It was pretty interesting listening to the staff and various doctors. Some of the surgeries were minor day surgeries, so I could hear the staff checking on the patients who had just woken up from their post-op slumber and informing them that they would be able to go home soon. Unfortunately, my vision was a blur without my glasses so I couldn't see much of what was going on. The anaesthetist came by a couple of times to talk to me, and finally, I was wheeled into the room where the operation would take place.
The time that I arrived at the hospital to the time that I was finally prepped at the surgical table was about five hours. The staff were very friendly during the actual preparation where I was transferred to the table. One of them even endeavoured to offer some tips on TTC. I only started feeling more
I didn't really expect to think happy thoughts or hope to have happy dreams because under proper sedation, the world is supposed to go black, and you're supposed go blank. Like your consciousness no longer exists. The times when patients have some awareness are the times when they are not being properly sedated, meaning that there's a high chance they'll be able to feel the operation taking place. :< So, anyway, I was mighty relieved when I opened my eyes to see my husband sitting on the armchair in the A-class ward playing games on his iPhone. I was back.
For the rest of the night, I replied Whatsapp messages, drank some beverages and tried to catch some sleep when the nurses were not busy taking my temperature or blood pressure. In the middle of the night, a very nice nurse who was the same age as me came by to encourage me to relieve myself. Apparently, it's a good sign if you can pass urine after an abdominal surgery. She brought me bed pans at first, but I found it impossible to do it while lying on the bed, unaided by earth's gravitational pull. I requested to be helped to the toilet, and finally, it happened.
Now, the process of getting up from the bed was tough. There was not such a lot of pain when walking, but I felt greatly weakened and the most difficult part was actually getting out of the bed and stepping onto the floor. I couldn't rely on my abdominal muscles to sit up.
The next morning, my dedicated and excellent doctor came by to check on me. He established that all was well and asked if I wanted to be discharged early. The words "cut costs" flashed across my mind, and I said, "Yes, of course." I must clarify, though, that the total fees were not high for private medical care. I felt that the fees were reasonable and extremely worth it for the care that I had received. The only reason why I was so concerned about the costs was because my husband and I had just spent a substantial sum of money renovating and purchasing furniture for our new home.
While waiting for my husband, I had a chat with a very nice and brave Indonesian lady who was a medical tourist. She was in Singapore for cancer treatment. She has two kids and she shared with me some of her experiences many years ago while TTC-ing. She also told me that her estimated bill for an op to remove her tumour as well as a one-week hospital stay would come up to about $30,000. Although more expensive than cancer treatment in a public hospital, I reassured her that considering her choice of care and ward class, she was definitely not being overcharged. As a guide, the costs of lung cancer treatment excluding surgery could already go up to $10,000 at an A-class ward at a public hospital in Singapore. The Indonesian lady's concerns about the costs of treatment puts paid to the mistaken notion some people in Singapore have about the spending habits of rich foreign patients. If I may digress a little, this was what some PAP supporters had to say about overcharging foreigners (in short: it's okay cos they are rich). Fortunately, not all doctors join the private sector to make heaps of money. Some doctors simply move to the private sector to have a better work-life balance. They're in the business of healing, and not the business of robbing their patients.
|If it had been a pittance for them, Susan Lim would not |
have gotten into so much trouble. Also, your brother's money
is NOT your money.
After my husband arrived, I got changed and was wheeled to the reception area of the hospital, where we paid the remainder of the bill. We were also told that the hospital would refund us whatever amount that they have received from my Medisave and my insurers.
The first two weeks after the operation were the toughest of all. If I had to choose again, I would definitely have opted to stay for another few days at the hospital. The recovery was not as smooth as the entire operation was. As this post is getting very long, more about that at another time.
As the title of this post suggests, the arduous process has been worth it because I am now pregnant. I hope that this post provides some information for aspiring mums who are in the situation that I was in before. Do your research about the risks and outcomes of whatever treatment you have decided on, stay close to your husband, and most of all, be brave.